Elegant Trogon, male, Madera Canyon, Sunday February 17th.
Sunday, February 17th we decided to head to Madera Canyon, knowing it would be a great day - and hey, any day in SE Arizona is a great day, regardless of the birds you might see. We knew that a Trogon had been seen in the canyon as well as the very rare White-throated Thrush, but who knew? Well, we saw both, and got photos to prove it!
Word had it that a male Elegant Trogon was hanging out just downhill of the Madera Picnic area, close to a large pyracantha bush north of the parking lot and west of the road. We parked and initially walked north by the creek (down canyon), examining the pyracantha carefully, and alas, no Trogon.
On our way back to the parking lot, we saw a gaggle of birders on the east side of the road, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the Trogon. As we made it to the road, he took flight and landed right in front of us on the west side of the road, first in a juniper tree, and then in the pyracantha bush. Above and below he pauses to model in both full sun and broken light.
The Elegant Trogon is a year round resident of Central America and Mexico who ventures north over the border into SE Arizona and western New Mexico for breeding. There are an estimated 50 breeding pairs in SE Arizona, living in riverside upland oak and sycamore canyons as well as pine-oak woodlands, edge vegetation, and juniper forests where they eat insects and fruit. We spotted our first last May in Cave Creek Canyon where they breed, nesting in open tree holes, favoring large Sycamores. During mating season, they call to each other with a low pitched croak, which to my ear sounds like the barking of a hoarse Chihuahua.
Here we see a solitary male in February. He may be bulking up for a big breeding season - maybe heading to the Chiricahuas this spring looking for a mate.
The male is striking: Black around the face with an orange eye-ring, green upper parts, red belly with a white band anteriorly, green back, and a long tail.
It is fun when a bird stays put long enough to look around, especially with such a great background. Check out the beard!
Below, an image in the pyracantha bush, showing the irrisdent green back and long tail.
He did not hang out for very long. Tired of the pyracantha, he took off and flew across the road, chased by a few birders with cameras who had arrived late for the party.
We spotted this Painted Redstart just to the north of the pyracantha bush before we discovered the Elegant Trogon. For more images from our Madera Canyon trip in March of 2018, click this link.
Painted Redstarts are warblers with bright red bellies, white wing patches, and a white crescent below the eye. They like riparian and arid woodland areas especially in mountains. They eat mostly insects as well as some tree sap, sugar water from feeders, as well as peanut butter and suet. Painted Redstarts live year round in the Mexican and Central American interior, breeding north in Arizona, New Mexico and portions of Texas.
They fan their tail feathers to stir up insects.
The Arizona Woodpecker lives in pine-oak mountain woodlands of Mexico, with a northern range that just makes it into SE Arizona and western New Mexico. The species favors the same environment as the Elegant Trogon, so it is not unusual to see them in the same area, same day.
This female was hanging out at the feeders at the Santa Rita Lodge. For images of a male from Cave Creek Canyon, click this link. Males have a small patch of red on the back of the head.
Arizona Woodpeckers eat insects and forage off of bark or the ground. Here we see a typical position with feet spread out and the tail used as a support, for comfortable foraging up a tree trunk or, in this case, a telephone pole.
We had started our day walking south (up canyon) from the Proctor Trailhead, looking for the White-throated Thrush, a resident of Mexico who is rarely seen north of the border in southern Texas. However, last month this bird was spotted here in Madera Canyon for the first recorded sighting in Arizona. For more on the sighting, click this link.
Alas no White-throated Thrush on our first pass, but later in the day, giddy with our Elegant Trogon encounter, we ventured north from the Whitehouse Picnic area, and found a very patient and observant birder, who carefully pointed us and a fellow birder from Utah, Mike, to this White-throated Thrush sitting under a log, digesting berries.
The White-throated Thrush is a neotropical Turdus thrush similar in size and shape to the American Robin. It ranges from Mexico south to Ecuador, and is generally found at higher elevations but moves downslope in winter. For the eBird page on the White-throated Thrush, including a range map with sighting, (including Madera Canyon), click this link.
Since this was truly a rare sighting, the four of us tiptoed and whispered at some distance, trying to find good views without disturbing our visiting bird.
He appeared to be regurgitating berries and occasionally spitting out a seed. See the sequence of three images below.
Below, a stretch unrelated to the sequence above, perhaps also part of his post feeding routine. He took off after a while, but stayed in the area.
In the same area we spotted this female Ladder-backed Woodpecker foraging in this bush. The Ladder-backed Woodpecker lives year-round throughout Mexico and parts of Central America and into southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Whiskered Screech-Owl (or, Where's Waldo?)
Sunday morning, as we made our first round on the trail south of the Proctor trailhead, we found a cluster of birders focused on a tree some 10 to 20 feet off of the trail. The common wisdom was that a Whiskered Screech-Owl was snoozing in the tree about 8 feet off the ground. So, here is my best image. I think you can see our Screech-Owl, AKA Waldo, tucked in next to the trunk. I believe that the feathers of the chest/abdomen and head are apparent. Note that we were all careful to stay on the trail and not approach the tree on foot to avoid disturbing this night worker's slumber.
For those of you who would really want to see a Whiskered Screech-Owl at this point, I have included an image from our trip to Cave Creek Canyon last May. This owl was a daytime regular in this Sycamore close to the road.
That's it for Madera Canyon this winter! Definitely a birding hotspot!
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Henry Johnson, photographer and author of this site. For more detail, see About